Ripken encouraged by Orioles' offseason moves

February 10, 2012|By Eduardo A. Encina, The Baltimore Sun

When looking back at last year's Orioles , the one thing that stuck out to Cal Ripken, Jr. was that their pitching was ranked last in the majors.

Before the former Orioles great held the eighth annual Cal Ripken Sr. Aspire Gala on Friday night at the Marriott Waterside in downtown Baltimore, he sat with one of his honorees, Yankees slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira, and talked about the importance of having quality arms. Two of the game's greatest hitters of their respective generations, lodged in a conversation about pitching.

Asked about the Orioles offseason accumulation of arms —the club has acquired seven new pitchers on the 40-man roster since the end of last year —Ripken said he thought new club executive vice president Dan Duquette has built "the nucleus of a pretty good club."

"It all starts with the pitching staff," Ripken said. "You can't have too many arms to be honest with you. I applaud that effort. You like to have a lot of arms, a lot of choices and a lot of depth. If you can build your arms, especially guys who can throw hard and are power guys, it's hard to teach a fastball. You can teach mechanics, you can teach the other stuff, so yeah, it makes logical sense that they're grabbing as much pitching as they can."

Teixeira, a Severna Park native and Mount St. Joseph's grad, watched his Yankees stay quiet during the offseason until New York added two top pitchers within hours of each other, acquiring Michael Pineda in a trade with Seattle and signing free agent Hiroki Kuroda.

"I think they were huge for our team," Teixeira said. "I don't have to tell Orioles fans that the AL East is brutal. It's the toughest division in baseball, and if you don't have arms, your pitching staff will get beat up.

"If you have some arms, and you have three or four of them, and one of them turns out to be good, that's not a bad ratio. We've got three guys going for our fifth spot. That's a great competition to have."

Ripken created the Cal Ripken, Sr., foundation in 2001 to honor his father. The foundation uses baseball and softball themed programs to help disadvantaged youth.

At Friday's gala, Teixeira, along with former Ravens linebackerO.J. Brigance, was honored with the Aspire Award. Teixeira has been involved in the East Harlem RBI (Revitalizing Baseball in the Inner Cities) program the past two years, helping to meet the program's goal of raising $20 million to help build baseball facilities, a community center and charter school.

As for Ripken , his son Ryan will play baseball at South Carolina next year, leaving the Ripkens with an empty nest -- prompting the constant question whether he wants to re-join the Orioles organization in some capacity.

"I don't have it all figured out," Ripken said. "I don't have any answers for what the timing is, but in the back of my mind, I always think you have a lot of baseball stuff to give and your expertise is at the highest level, so I think about ways I can apply that sometimes, but I don't have any answers right now."

eencina@baltsun.com

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